Lahore: It may have taken eight long years for big time international cricket to return to Pakistan, but the wholehearted response of the fans for the final of Pakistan Super League (PSL) on Sunday made it worthwhile. A packed stadium of 30,000 fans swayed to some of the country’s leading entertainers to usher in the final between Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators.
The attack on Sri Lankan team bus in 2009 on their way to Gaddafi Stadium took the country with a rich cricketing history away from the global cricketing map — even though Zimbabwe returned to play two One Day Internationals in Pakistan in 2015. “It’s a very clever step to bring cricket back in Pakistan,” the legendary all-rounder Wasim Akram said on TV.
West Indies World Twenty20 winning captain Darren Sammy, who was among nine foreign cricketers to arrive in Lahore early Sunday, won the hearts with a little jig on the stage with teammate Kamran Akmal giving him company.
Hundreds of fans started lining up in long queues to clear three checkpoints at least six hours before the final. “Even if we have to pass through a dozen security checkpoints we won’t mind,” said Mohammad Afzal, a smiling 25-year-old Peshawar fan.
A special shuttle bus service was put in place at two security checkpoints that carried spectators to the 14 entry gates of the Gaddafi Stadium.
Peshawar is being led by Sammy, who is joined by three other foreigners in England’s Dawid Malan and Chris Jordan along with fellow West Indies player Marlon Samuels.
Last year’s finalist Quetta had to reshuffle its team because four of its foreign players refused to travel to Pakistan due to security concerns. The team played its league matches in the United Arab Emirates.
Quetta managed to convince Rayad Emrit of West Indies, Anamul Haque of Bangladesh, South African Morne van Wyk and Zimbabwe’s Elton Chigumbura and Sean Ervine to play in the final.
“It’s not a matter of who wins or loses tonight, it’s a big day for Pakistan as we wanted to show the world we can host international matches too,” said 18-year-old student Iftikhar Ahmed, who arrived at the venue hours before the game was due to start.
— With inputs from AP